Best Mastectomy (and Bday) Gifts Ever

I am so lucky to have an amazing group of girlfriends. Yesterday was my birthday, and they treated me to a yummy celebratory lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. I adore this group of women and it is always so great to hang with them. With busy lives and schedules, we don’t get to do it as often as we should.

During my birthday lunch, I got up to use the restroom and when I got back to the table, there was this amazing tower of gifts at my seat! There were at least 20 gifts to open. Who doesn’t love opening presents?

One of my friends, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years ago planned the whole thing. (She is now NED, which means No Evidence of Disease..woohoo!) This woman has been a huge support and is a special kind of soul sister to me now. She organized the BEST collection of gifts ever.

The amount of time that went in to carefully choosing, organizing and wrapping these items is just beyond thoughtful. Seriously. Thank you, Amy. Did I mention that she has three kids, is a successful attorney and still dealing with some health issues?  This chick is a superwoman.

I wanted to share the gifts because there are so many items here that are helpful for those facing a double mastectomy. Everything was labeled into cute categories.

Luxurious backrest pillow

Custom-made pillows to put under my arms for comfort after surgery.

Two pairs of the softest, most comfortable and luxurious pajamas from Soma. These are made of a special material to keep you cool.

Thank-you notes. Pre-stamped with return address written in! Seriously brilliant.

Damn it Dolls (for pity par-tays)

 Adult Coloring Book (always wanted to try these…love that the pencils are erasable)

Eye shade + earplugs for better sleeping in hospitals and during the day.

Blackbird’s BackBeads

I adore these! They can be used for meditation and worn as a special necklace to keep your intentions close to your heart and carry a sense of peace throughout the day. Plus, they are beautiful.

Lanyard + safety pins to hold my drains in the shower

Karma calendar (kind of like an advent calendar but can be used any month)

Awesome hoodie! Everything you wear after surgery has to be button down or zipper. I love that this hoodie is sleeveless, perfect for summer.

  

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Fancy, Fancy

My blog looks fancy now, doesn’t it?

Blogging is part of what I do for a living. I help clients with blogs for their businesses…and it was driving me crazy that my own little blog wasn’t pretty enough! Also, I did not initially create it on WordPress, which was really annoying me.

Anyway, I switched things up, and am now in my happy place, which is on WordPress. So much better! Hopefully, people who have been having issues leaving comments, following, etc. will enjoy the new changes as well.

Who is reading this, I wonder? Go ahead, leave a comment if you feel like it. And if you want to get updates when there is a new post, just hit the “follow” button to get an email notification.

I spoke to my friend who recently finished going through treatment the other day and it is always so nice to speak to her. She just gets it. Everything about it. I was having a day where I was feeling a little blue and she definitely helped.

Also connected with another mom in my neighborhood who had breast cancer a couple years ago. She was very positive and said that her surgery was smooth, with no issues. She went to Sloan Kettering  in NYC and said going to a big cancer center makes all the difference. Her blog had information about this site, which arranges travel for people traveling for cancer care.  This could definitely be helpful for all of the flying back and forth I will need to do!

My best days are the normal ones. The ones where I do my hair, put on a real outfit and go meet with clients, see a friend for lunch. Staying home in sweats and doing c-word research while stress eating? Not so much. Will try to have less of those days before I leave for surgery.

The next couple of weeks are going to be crazy. Tons of end of school activities, two dance recitals with extra rehearsals, a band concert, my son’s birthday, a little birthday celebration for me (woohoo!) and trying to get everything prepped for camp and summer.

But busy is good. A week from Tuesday I head to Houston for one night of some pre-op stuff.  Then on June 5 Mark and I will head back for the surgery.

Thank you to all of our family, friends and neighbors that are helping out with kids and logistics.  It takes a village, and I am so lucky that I have a great one!

 

 

Ants In Pants

I am not a patient person. Waiting is really hard for me, always has been. I am ready to get this show on the road!

I wish I had a fast forward button that I could press until I am on the other side of the surgery.  Too much time on my hands is causing my mind to go to dark places.

Stay positive, they say. There is power in positive thinking. Okay. Trying. Positivity.

Here is what is going to happen on June 5:

Everything will be on schedule, according to plan. I fly to Houston with no delays or turbulence. During pre-op I feel calm and ready to get this stuff out of me. No anxiety or fear. The operation goes smoothly with absolutely no surprises or complications.

Teeny tiny tumor, no lymph node involvement. Wow, says the surgeon. This is one of the smallest tumors and most uncomplicated cases I have ever seen! Everyone in the OR agrees.

After surgery, I rest comfortably with no issues from anesthesia or pain. It doesn’t take long for me to be up and on my feet. I make friends with the nurses and am joking and laughing with everyone.

Recovery is a breeze. Much easier than I thought. The drains are no biggie, my scars don’t even look that bad! I take some pain pills for a few days, but don’t even need them after the first week.

I am a perfect patient and don’t annoy my parents at all. We have fun binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. It’s kind of like a little vacation.

The expanders? They are not heavy, they feel fine. I have no problems sleeping comfortably.

Infection? Nope.

Trouble reaching stuff, getting dressed and bathing myself? No issues. I got this.

Back at home, kids are in their routine and happy.  All is under control. They are not worried about me and are enjoying camp and friends. All of the instructions I put together for their routine are perfect, I didn’t forget a thing.

Final pathology comes back with no surprises. We got this so early! It’s tiny.  Clean margins, got it all. No chemo needed. No radiation needed.

I fly home ahead of schedule with an easy transition to a local plastic surgeon to finish everything up.

Pretty soon life is back to normal and this becomes just a blip, a memory. People go back to treating me normally. Work, kids and life get normal again.  I start a new exercise plan.  I meditate. I feel calm, happy and lucky.

Positive, positive, positive.

Hopefully, in a few weeks I can write a post similar to this one.

Fingers crossed!

Strange Days

This is a strange time. The days are long and surgery seems so far away from now. I am happy to have this “normal” time with my family and friends, but it’s not really normal. I will be doing fine and then… suddenly, waves of anxiety rush through me. Mini panic attacks. At the weirdest times. Work is definitely a good distraction and just keeping busy in general helps. When I have too much time on my hands things get hard.

I am really trying to stay off the internet, but it is difficult. Things will pop up in my newsfeed and literally ruin my day.

For example, yesterday I was just innocently going through my Facebook feed when this news story popped up. It’s about a woman who thought she had stage 1 breast cancer, and was trying to make the best of the situation by having a positive attitude about it. She had a little “Ta-Ta to the Tatas” party to say goodbye to her breasts. When they did her surgery, the doctors found that her cancer was not Stage 1, but Stage 4 and had spread throughout her body and into her bones.

“But…did she have an MRI?” I want to ask.  “Was her bloodwork normal?  Did she go to an amazing facility like MD Anderson to have her scans?” I desperately want to know these answers to try to soothe my fears of that happening to me.

Then, there is this woman, whose blog I recently devoured. When her surgery was over the initial tests said it was not in her lymph nodes.  Her family cheered and celebrated…no chemo!! Then, a week later when the final pathology came back, they found it was in her lymph nodes after all. Not only did they have to go back in for a second surgery to get more nodes, but she surely did need chemo.

I know its probably not healthy to read these stories. I have to focus on my own situation and everyone’s story is different. I am trying.

By the way, people are awesome. So many friends doing little things to help me out, even just checking in with a quick text or call..it really helps. Truly. When I am having a bad moment or occasionally feeling alone, that feeling of support makes such a difference. People have been so great and it means so much to me.

Thank you. XOXO

10 Things I Have Learned: Issue #2

1. When you get diagnosed with cancer, a lot of people are going to treat you differently. When you see them, they avoid you, can’t make eye contact…or they might even cry. There is a tragic overtone to the conversation. Like someone has died. Or is going to die. Ugh. I mean, I get it. People are freaked out, scared it might happen to them, or don’t know what to say. But it is super weird. Thankfully, there are also people who treat you normally.

2. {This might be TMI for some} When you get a mastectomy, you leave the hospital with 2-4 drains coming out of your body. Eww, right? I am not looking forward to this part. From what I have read, the drains will stay in for weeks and are not fun.

3. I have had a couple friends who have been sick with cancer or other serious illnesses, and they agree that you really do look at everything differently when diagnosed. Silver lining, I guess. I have already begun to feel a deep appreciation for the little things that we sometimes take for granted in life.

4. You really have to be your own advocate when you are a cancer patient. You have to speak up for yourself, educate yourself and double check everything to make sure there are no errors in your reports and paperwork. No one else is going to do this for you. I met two women in the waiting room at MDA who had recently been diagnosed. Neither woman knew what kind of cancer they had, or had even seen their pathology reports. This blew my mind.

5. In 1998, the Women’s Health & Cancer Act was signed by President Bill Clinton. The act requires that health insurance companies and plans pay for breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. So thankful for this.

6. If you are getting reconstructive surgery, you have tons of options and choices to make. Nipple sparing, skin sparing, implants, flaps, expanders, skin graphs…the list goes on. It’s a bit overwhelming and took me awhile to fully understand which choice would be best for me.

7. And speaking of nipples (sorry), there is this guy named Vinnie who does amazing 3-D nipple tattoos for women who have been through breast cancer. He is very famous…MD Anderson told me about him and I had already read about him. He’s an artist and changes women’s lives.

8. People say that the first couple of weeks after diagnosis are the hardest. I think I agree. I have turned a little corner and having a plan in place does make me feel better.

9. I get why people say blogging is cathartic. It helps sort out what you are feeling. Also, from a practical standpoint, its a great way to update people who care about you.

10. I’ve changed my stance on this post a bit. While research is definitely important, scouring the internet and reading different people’s stories over and over has not been good for me lately. You read about every worst case scenario, and it just heightens anxiety. I am trying to show some restraint here. It’s not easy, but I am trying.

Happy May

It looks like surgery will happen in early June, so May should be a pretty normal month! Although anxious to have the surgery, I am thankful to have a month to plan and prepare.

We decided to do my daughter’s birthday in May instead of June, so I quickly threw together a fun party for her which I think she will love. We are doing a limo to a fun restaurant with a handful of friends…she is super excited.

Heading to Disney this weekend with dear friends and staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where I have always wanted to stay. Looking forward to a fun family weekend.

I am so thankful that I won’t miss the girl’s recitals…both happening on the same weekend and my older daughter has the featured solo in her musical theatre number. I would have been so bummed to miss that!

Also I have a trunk to pack for my son’s first summer at sleepaway camp.  Determined to get that done this month.

Soo…looking forward to a nice normal May without a lot of “c-word” stuff.  If the blog is quiet this month, it means I am having fun and not stressing out about things.

Just want to say a huge thank you to everyone for being so supportive, checking in, listening, driving my kids, going to doctors appointments with me, etc.  I am so lucky to have such an amazing network of family and friends.

Here’s to hoping May doesn’t go by too fast…Big love to all. XO

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Beautiful B9

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After three attempts to biopsy today, they finally got the sample they needed and my left side is in the clear!

Benign is such a beautiful word to hear these days.

Now we just need to deal with Lefty’s evil twin sister.

We got some very positive opinions today and I am feeling optimistic. I have a big surgery ahead of me, which will be no picnic. BUT…if there are no surprises during surgery, things are looking very good! MDA feels that we caught this very early and it is very small and treatable.

I am loving my doctors at MDA which we now refer to as “The Dream Team”.  These guys are pretty famous and pretty awesome. I don’t know how I lucked out with this crew, but I feel very lucky.

So glad I came here for a second opinion. Big love for MDA right now.

I will leave you with this helpful chart my sister found for breast exams.

Looking forward to going home tomorrow!

Another day. Another biopsy.

I found out why the radiologist seemed stressed out. The biopsy failed. She was only able to get blood, no tissue in the sample. So in a couple of hours I will have a repeat. Hoping for benign results and better pain meds this time around.

On to some good news….met with two amazing, incredible doctors. I was so impressed with both the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon, as well as their fellows and nurses.  They spent a lot of time with us, were very thorough and answered all of our questions. These guys have ridiculous credentials and they deal with breast cancer all day, every day. I had the gut feeling with both of them that these are people I want in my corner.

Waiting now to go in for the biopsy, then meeting with the oncologist later this afternoon. Tomorrow I fly home and can’t wait to see my kids.

Thanks so much for all of the texts and emails checking in. I feel the love and I love my peeps!

Texas

We are here in Houston and had our first day at MD Anderson.  Today was just radiology…they repeated the mammogram and ultrasound so they could compare the scans with the ones I had at home.  Sounds easy enough, but it was a pretty crappy morning.

First, the mammogram which was definitely unlike any mammo I have had before.  All I can say is ouch! It was much longer than usual and involved lots of extremely tight clamping. I mean really tight. I have been getting them since I was 35 and its always a little uncomfortable, but never like this. I guess if they can get better pictures that way it’s worth it.

Then, on to the ultrasound…I had a tough cookie from Boston as my ultrasound tech.  She referred to my tumor as “teeny tiny”, which I love to hear.  She is the second medical professional who has said that. After about 45 minutes of ultrasound-ing, she stepped out and came back with the radiologist.  Apparently, they had seen a nodule on my OTHER breast. Ugh.

The radiologist said she really thought it was benign, but with my BRCA status we have to biopsy it. (Haven’t I heard that before?).  She told me they would do a simple needle biopsy and then a pathologist would read the tissue and have a result in ten minutes.  If benign, I could go home. If malignant, they would have to do a “real” biopsy.

So after prepping me for the procedure, signing paperwork and lots of waiting we got the show on the road. The lab lady from pathology showed up and the procedure began. Now, from the way she explained it…I thought it would be a very simple procedure and not as bad as my last biopsy (which really wasn’t that big of a deal). I thought it would just be like a shot.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. First of all, I guess she didn’t give me enough anesthesia so I felt this intense burning pain. “Ouch! I can feel that!” I yelled.  She started giving me more and gave me like 3 shots. It was super painful. Then, I guess this nodule was very deep so it took about 30 minutes of tugging until she got what she needed.

After awhile (much longer than 10 minutes), the radiologist came back in and said that pathology did not see anything suspicious on their first test, but that she will not say its benign until the full pathology report comes back. She seemed stressed out. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the anesthesia, or maybe because she didn’t feel she got a great sample? Or maybe because she was so busy, the place was packed. Anyway, I will have the results tomorrow when we meet with the doctor.

It was a not fun morning.

I was very cranky after my appointments but I finally got over it and my mom and I went to a fun part of Houston called Rice Village for some retail therapy and a nice dinner. Shopping, a manicure and wine definitely helped.

I am trying to focus on the positive…that they think its benign and that my (other) tumor is “teeny tiny”.  Looking forward to finding out more tomorrow.

Best part of the trip was cocktails with my mom and sister last night. If only this was just a normal girls weekend! Have loved spending time with them though, and very thankful that they are here. We miss you, Sara! XO

Uninvited Guest

I was thinking that cancer is like an uninvited guest who shows up at your house and won’t leave. Not the type of guest that just does her own thing…helps herself to coffee and makes the bed. The kind that takes over and requires all of your attention. You just want her to go home so your life can get back to normal.

I am finding, even at this early stage of the journey, that sometimes its nice to have cancer-free days. I know I am not cancer-free (yet), but taking a break from all the doctors, research, talking about it, etc. is really nice sometimes.

Yesterday I hung out with the kids and had a pretty normal day. My husband and I had a nice date night (probably the last one we will have in awhile). We actually laughed a lot, more than we have in a long time. We had fun. It was nice to just put cancer on the sidelines for a day.

It really does take over. And it makes you long for the days when the little stresses of day-to-day life seemed important. I guess at some point I will have a new normal and get used to the changes.

It also feels sort of like the calm before the storm. Kind of like when you are pregnant and you don’t know what having a baby will really be like.  You have an idea, but you can’t really know until there is a real, live, crying baby in your arms.

Monday I leave for Houston. At MD Anderson we will pretty much be starting from scratch. They do all of their own tests, scans, etc. so it will truly be a second opinion on everything. Very anxious to see what they say.

My mom will meet me in Houston and I am looking forward to spending time with her and my sister.

Happy Sunday XO

P.S. If you are looking for a movie to see, avoid “The Promise” at all costs. It was the only thing playing at the fancy theater and it was soo bad. The kind of bad where you can’t help but giggle during the serious moments. At least we had comfy seats! 🙂